“I’ve shown you the best way, so don’t whine to me if you choose another way and it doesn’t work out well.” These are words I’ve spoken what seems like a hundred times to my kids. There is clearly one way, whether that means one safe way or one easy way or just one correct way, to get something done…yet they are determined to do it their own way. At some point, as parents, we have to be confident we have given all the information we can and pray our kids take it to heart and use it properly.
I had to laugh the other day as I was reading in Acts 20, and saw that Paul used essentially the same line on some of the leaders from Ephesus. In this account, recorded in Acts 20:13-38 (NLT), Paul is making one of his many evangelistic tours to check on churches he had planted and people with whom he had shared the Gospel. At one stop, he invited the elders from Ephesus to meet with him to share some parting words, because Paul knew, via the Holy Spirit, that very difficult times were ahead, including imprisonment, mistreatment, and possibly death.
In what he thought may be his last conversation with this group, he shared that he had faithfully served God and delivered the good news about the grace of God through Jesus, and that he was willing to endure whatever hardships he must face because, “… my life is worth nothing to me unless I use it for finishing the work assigned me by the Lord Jesus—the work of telling others the Good News about the wonderful grace of God” (Acts 20:24 – NLT).
He was determined, he was proud of the way God had used him, and he was not fearful about the future. Instead, he was intent on serving God to the very end. What an inspiration he must have been to those elders. My favorite part, though, comes a couple verses later when Paul continues his conversation by saying in verses 25-27, “And now I know that none of you to whom I have preached the Kingdom will ever see me again. I declare today that I have been faithful. If anyone suffers eternal death, it’s not my fault, for I didn’t shrink from declaring all that God wants you to know.”
Paul has a parent moment. He says, “Look, I’ve told you the truth, the right way to do things. I’ve busted my tail to teach you, guide you, and be the best example possible for you. If you mess it up now, I don’t want to hear anyone whine about it.” The same message is true for all of us. We know the truth…it has been demonstrated to us and taught to us. For many of us, we have experienced the truth through the Holy Spirit and God visibly moving in our lives. We must take responsibility, just as Paul told the elders of Ephesus to do, and ensure we are living out the Gospel we know to be true.